Decisions on Novavax, Medicago COVID-19 vaccines could come within ‘weeks’: Health Canada

Health Canada is set to complete its reviews of the Novavax and Medicago COVID-19 vaccines “in the coming weeks,” according to the agency’s deputy minister.

“The Health Canada dedicated regulatory teams for each submission are working very hard at these. They are dependent on information from the companies to complete those reviews, but we expect to be making decisions on both vaccines in the coming weeks,” said Health Canada Deputy Minister Stephen Lucas, facing questions from MPs at the House of Commons Health Committee on Tuesday. 

If authorized by the federal regulator, these vaccines would become the first COVID-19 vaccines to be made in Canada.

While Novavax is a Maryland-based company, in February 2021— facing pressure over Canada’s depleted domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity— the federal government signed a deal with Novavax to produce its COVID-19 vaccine at a new Montreal facility. That facility opened this summer, with the aim of producing vaccines in early 2022. Health Canada has been reviewing Novavax’s protein-based COVID-19 vaccine since January 2021.

Medicago, which is headquartered in Quebec, has had their COVID-19 vaccine under review by Health Canada since April 2021. The federal government has committed $173 million towards the plant-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate and the eventual Canadian production of it in Quebec City. 

NDP MP Don Davies and Conservative MP Ryan Williams both asked about the status of these reviews at Tuesday’s meeting citing interest in having made-in-Canada options as well as other offerings to potentially address vaccine hesitancy.

The government has contracts in place securing up to 76 million doses each of the Medicago and Novavax vaccines, should they be required.

Asked at the meeting how soon Canadian production of COVID-19 vaccines could happen, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos could not give an answer. 

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